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North America has plenty of resources. It doesn’t need Western Europe’s austere ways

Western Europe doesn’t have the vast natural resources of North America, which is why European politicians preach conservation of resources (such as fuel and water) like it’s a religion. We don’t need car-free days, like Paris does occasionally.
Western Europe doesn’t have the vast natural resources of North America, which is why European politicians preach conservation of resources (such as fuel and water) like it’s a religion. We don’t need car-free days, like Paris does occasionally. 2018 Associated Press file photo

Spending a few weeks away from Europe over the summer, it’s impossible not to notice the ways in which the U.S. and Canada insist on copycatting various aspects of Western European life.

First up: the summer ritual called “Dîner en Blanc.” Launched in Paris in 1988, it’s an annual event in which large groups of people eat a meal in a public space and attendees must wear white. In its city of origin, the dinner takes place at various historic sites such as the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides war museum, the Château de Versailles and the Champs-Élysées. A high-end caterer to the French presidential palace provided this year’s fare.

The concept has been adapted by various North American cities. A walk along the local seawall earlier this month revealed a gathering of duck-lipped, cleavage-popping women, many of them dressed like fairies or princesses, and men who looked like they rummaged through their closets for off-white golf shorts and a polo shirt. Beside a little wicker Eiffel Tower sat what looked like a giant pan of taco meat. An “Instagrammable” corner was set up with white chairs and flower bouquets for scenic selfies. Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Paris anymore.

Then we have the “car-free” days that now plague select North American cities. (Quick, there’s still time to nip this one in the bud before it spreads.) A concept originally launched in Europe, it gained significant traction in 2018, when Paris and Brussels decided to block traffic to “celebrate” other means of transportation.

In Paris, where the city shuts down the Champs-Élysées, the event has become associated with the Socialist Party mayor’s obsession with making motorists’ lives as difficult as possible. It’s an opportunity for drivers to idle in gridlock or take time-wasting and gas-guzzling detours to avoid it. Pedestrians can celebrate car-free day by getting run down by high-speed electric scooters that treat sidewalks like the Autobahn and whose drivers ignore normal rules of the road. Alternatively, these poor pedestrians could rejoice in taking overcrowded public transit plagued by the delays and detours caused by the roadblocks.

Western Europe doesn’t have the vast natural resources of North America, which is why European politicians preach conservation of resources (such as fuel and water) like it’s a religion. You can’t use a shower at a public swimming pool in Paris without having to activate it every three seconds. The U.S. and Canada don’t have the same concerns. The showers at the local swimming pool here in suburban Vancouver have the proper water pressure — that of a firehose.

Western Europe is never going to be energy-independent when it comes to gasoline for people’s cars. It’s already expensive — over $6 a gallon — so it’s not hard to understand why an additional “environmental” tax on gas was what sparked the Yellow Vest protests in France, which are now in their 40th week. It’s a scam that North America has a virtually endless supply of fuel and is nonetheless mimicking Europe’s handwringing over resource scarcity. There’s no need for any days to be car-free in North America. It’s nothing but an imported gimmick that adds a senseless layer of annoyance to the already challenging daily obstacle course faced by working people.

The next time you see a strange trend that looks out of place in North America, check the label. It probably reads “Made in Europe” and should be sent back, pronto.

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